Server Life: Uncovering the tips of the trade
By: Emily Girdler
Working as a server has its own unique set of traits and responsibilities that encompass the job. The good, the bad, and the ugly- Servers break down some of the facts about working in the industry.
KENNESAW, Ga. — Working in the restaurant industry is time consuming and tedious. It requires good people skills on top of pure knowledge and the drive to always want to learn more. It takes a special kind of person to thrive in this industry.
On average servers are making around $5.oo an hour, with some servers only making as much as 2.13 an hour. While the pay and the work is not known for being the most glamorous, the need for servers and the amount of servers in the United States does not seem to be dwindling one bit. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that there were around 2,445,230 servers nationwide, with 75,800 servers in Georgia. These numbers have only grown since 2014 and will continue to grow as more and more restaurants open up.
Taylor Lamb, server for six years, has experienced the many ups and downs of serving and knows firsthand the struggle for a stable income in this business.
“I have worked as a server in three restaurants total since I started, and the money has always been something that is very up or down,” says Lamb. “I don’t think people realize that as a server we don’t get to see a paycheck. That $2.00 an hour is taken out in taxes so all the money we make comes straight from the tips our customers leave us.”
For Annmarie Elliot, serving has become her way of life. She started at the age of 17 and
has worked off and on for 25 years as a server in locations all over the United States. Some of those locations include New York, San Diego, North Carolina, and Kennesaw. While serving over the past 25 years she has seen and heard it all but still remains optimistic about the job.
“Life as a server is like a response team,” said Elliot. “It is like being a cop, paramedic, or even a fire fighter. The hours are sometimes long and gruesome, and the pay may not always be the greatest, but you still manage to come into work to do the same job every day because you like what you do and you like to help people. I have made a living over the past 25 years from serving and it has had its bad days, but in the end it’s been one of the most rewarding jobs I could have ever asked for.”
Stress in the Industry
One thing that is certain is that servers are constantly emerged in a fast pace, high stress environment. The stress of being a server and the health risks it can have on them, have been a rather important issue recently. A study was done in Guangzhou, China in 2015 about job-related health. The analysis found that people with high stress jobs, such as being a server, were at a 22 percent higher risk of stroke on average then those with low stress jobs.
For Carl Rowe, 25-year-old server who has been in the industry for five years, these statistics on stress were nothing new to him. He too has experienced stress as a server, and continues to experience this stress throughout his shifts.
“Serving can be an extremely stressful job, but it is something you would never understand unless you have worked in the industry,” said Rowe. “The fact that there are health related problems from the stress doesn’t really surprise me, but it is a tad alarming. The stress we experience while serving is almost too hard to explain, but the best way I can put it is imagine only getting paid based off of the impression you make on others. Instead of getting paid to be a teacher, you’re only getting paid if I think you’re a good teacher. Working in a job field like that will have you stressing almost every shift!”
The Bright Side to Serving
While many discussions about serving revolve around the stress, or lack of pay that servers encounter, some good things, and many life lesson have come from holding a serving job. In a book written by Carolyn Gabe titled, Everything I Know as a CEO I Learned as a Waitress, she discusses how she leaned many life lessons while being a server. These life lessons were lessons she carried into the corporate world and she takes the time to outline 12 principles of customer service that she learned when she was a waitress.
Much like Carolyn Gabe, Luster Johnson, a server for the last four years has also gained many important life lessons from serving.
“Serving has taught me a lot of life skills over the past four years, and I’ve turned out to be a better person over all because of it,” said Johnson. “Some of the main things I have learned from being a server would be people skills and how to talk to strangers, how to work under stressful situations, and how to multitask efficiently. These are life skills that will not only get me further in life but will also help me land my dream job one day.”
Why Everyone Should Experience the Life of a Server
While serving can be a whirlwind of things all at once, most if not all severs have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly side of it. After to speaking to many servers in the industry it is clear that the underlying message they want to get across is that everyone should have to experience the life of a server.
“I believe it is extremely important to experience the life of a server at least once in your lifetime,” said Rowe. “Being a server teaches you to be humble in the most dire circumstances. Also, you learn how to treat others with respect, and learn how to respect everyone’s job. I know for a fact I will one day make my children work as a server, just so they can have a greater appreciation for the people who work in the industry.”